Comments From Pete Carroll As End Of Spring Practice Nears
April 9, 2004
USC Coach Pete Carroll - End of Spring Football Practice Media Luncheon
'We've had a very successful spring. First off, we've recaptured the work ethic and the speed of practice and the competition level that we need to sustain us. That's absolutely the most important aspect of it. Without that, we're not going to be able to come back and play good football.
'The theme of the spring has been competition. It has clearly shown to be a factor at the offensive line, at the receiver position, at the quarterback back-up spot. On the defensive side, we have great competition at corner and are anxious to see how that turns out when we get back to fall camp.
'I don't feel there's any point in making any definitive decisions at this point right now. As far as the depth chart, there's no need. We'll continue to work. There's some positions that are decided on this chart, but as far as final decisions, we'll let those play out as we go back to camp.
'I've been most pleased with the progress of the offensive line, both units, first and second. (OL Coach) Tim (Davis) has done a great job with these guys, getting their attitude right. They've been aggressive and tough. It's an athletic group, but very inexperienced and they're subject to making mistakes on assignments, but they're trying hard and working hard and have had some success against a good unit up front, so that's a good sign for them.
'It's been clear the difference in the quarterback position from last spring to this spring. Matt (Leinart) has helped the other guys get aligned and doing the right things. He's helping guys around him play better and this time last year he was scrambling and just trying to get his own playing time, so that's been a benefit.
'The running back position, Hershel Dennis was the only one coming back last year. Much different this year. We saw indications of the kind of things we got in the fall. Two scrimmages ago Reggie Bush carried the scrimmage and this last week I thought LenDale White and Hershel carried it. That's a good sign for us. We're flexible with some variations in style of play.
'The receiver spot has been exciting to watch. That's the one where we get hit hardest with the playmaking aspects of the losses of Keary Colbert and Mike Williams. Steve Smith has had to be thrown to the front and he's taken over Keary's job and Whitney Lewis has surfaced as the top guy at split end and has shared it with William Buchanon and Fred Davis. It's been a real good spring. Whitney is probably the guy that's improved the most. If you gave a most improved player, he'd get it in the spring. Right from the first day he started to make statements and show his playmaking ability. He's really trim and fit and fast and strong and it showed up. We're real excited about what he can bring. He had a great scrimmage last week.
'Alex Holmes is coming back and it's a boost to see him back. Athletically, he's the best he's been and fastest he's been since we've been around here. He's played with veteran poise and has been instrumental in the development of the o-line and the tackle play. Dominique Byrd has looked good in all of the workouts at full speed, but we haven't practiced him in any contact drills. Those two guys along with Gregg Guenther give us a good spot for next year.
'We lose some, we gain some and I'm hoping we can fit this together with the new recruiting class and be a good, strong football team again. How good, how strong I don't know yet. We didn't know it at this point last year either. I'm confident we'll play good solid football as long as the effort and the competitive aspect stays up there.
'It's been an interesting race at the cornerback spot. Ronnie Nunn has finished well. Kevin Arbet got some work done yesterday. Those two bring experience. Justin Wyatt has had an excellent spring. He's just way farther ahead then where he was any time (last year). Confidence-wise, he's got great speed and athleticism and Terrell Thomas and Eric Wright have had great springs as well. It's a good, competitive position where I think a lot of people looking on the outside in would have thought we'd be in trouble. I don't think that way at all. I think it'll be a strong position for us.
'The other thing I mentioned is the move of Shaun Cody from tackle to end to give Manuel Wright a chance to play three technique has worked out and we'll have that flexibility going into the fall and depending on how it settles, Shaun could be a starting end and Manny could be a starting tackle. If we were playing today, that's how we'd go. But we'll wait and see until we get through camp. Michael Patterson and Shaun had great springs. Took up where they left off. Both are the fastest and strongest they've ever been and both seem set up to have an excellent fall. They really dominated the spring for the first two weeks. The offensive line couldn't handle them.'
Is outside Cody's natural spot? 'No, his natural position is inside as he goes to the next level. He's shown he's a really good inside player. He's 292, the biggest he's ever been and he's the quickest he's ever been. He's much farther along than he was last year. He was just surviving last year, recovering from the knee. He's so much better now. He's able to play outside. He's a real stopper and technique-wise, he could play anywhere. But I think he's a more natural inside player. He's pumped up, quick and ready to go. He'll play both spots.
'Lawrence Jackson has been coming on. Frostee Rucker's coming back. Jeff Schweiger could figure in, Thomas Herring. Shaun is by far the most experienced tackle and it would take somebody else's movement to make a move. We're flexible enough where we can lose Kenechi Udeze and put Shaun there. We've felt secure from the moment you did that that we haven't lost anything ... Shaun mentioned he thought he'd need to get his weight down to be quicker at end. But he's the quickest he's ever been and he doesn't need to do it. He's handling the weight beautifully. He's as fit as he's ever been for us.
'It's more the fact that the quarterback is so squared away, we can do a lot of things. We can move Matt around a lot, take advantage of the quick schemes, change up the protections as the line develops. We'll not be a drop back team in any manner. We'll continue to mix as we've done. In the last two year's we've switched the emphasis in terms of sacks and efficiency of the QB and we'll continue that.
'We've had the opportunity to expand the offense, maybe a little more than we thought. All the things we wanted to experiment have come through for us and these things we'll add to our offense. That's been a real positive and seemingly will become part of what we do.'
'Sam Baker has made the most obvious progress of the young guys and he's clearly won the left tackle position at this time. There's things that could happen. It depends on John Drake's recovery. We don't know how well he'll come back. He's kind of a wildcard. He's played guard and tackle and could fit in anywhere, we just have to keep our fingers crossed he comes back. But Sam's done a great job and Matt Spanos has done a nice job too. We know Alatini (Malu) has played out there and John has played out there. It's not set in stone. It's written in sand. But I'm fired up about Sam. He's had a great spring and hasn't missed a snap and has looked very athletic and aggressive and has done a nice job.
Re: the state of the program and how it deals with departures: 'The way I express my feeling is the way we feel about the team. When Mike's situation came up, we talked about it as a team and I mentioned it to the guys. I said last year we lost the Heisman Trophy winner, our top five running backs, the best defensive player we may ever play with (Troy Polamalu) and a number of other guys and guys like Kevin Arbet, Alex Holmes and Dominque Byrd that didn't play and I asked the guys, what happened. And they quietly muttered we won a national championship. The statement was clear that this is how we operate and we'll move on and do everything we can with what we have. They guys understand the philosophy and we'll make the most of it.
'The other side, when the these young guys get here to the fall camp, we'll be as filled up depth-wise as we have by far. We have a lot of big kids coming on both sides of the ball. Our o-line will finally be filled up with guys competing for the first time since we've been here. That's a statement and a feeling that we'll have more depth than we've had at any time. I didn't mention him, but Kyle Williams had an excellent spring. He'd been a backup, been looking like a backup for a couple years and he got his opportunity and went for it. It's very similar as what happened to Matt. When Matt was struggling through the competition of it, we told him he was the first guy and he's never looked back. It's exciting to see it happen because sometimes you get surprised.
'Lee Webb has been a standout in the spring in place of Brandon Hancock. You would have thought you lost a lot. The guys that fill in aren't always the same. They've have different strengths and you try to find the strengths and maximize them and coach them in that manner. Whereas we might coach one guy in a particular style, we'll coach another in a different style. You need the flexibility. Gregg did a great job filling in for Dominique and Alex last year.'
Anticipation of the freshman class coming in: 'To me, that's the highlight of what's coming up. To see those guys jump on the practice field, put on the colors and battle. We worked really hard and competed like crazy to get these guys here and they've come together. They've been around us a lot. They've gone out of their way to come out and watch us play in spring ball and will come out in the summer and work out. A number of the guys were on the phone during the recruiting process to come together and play together to be champions together. It's very exciting to see the bond that's already started. Jeff Byers was a ringleader and Keith Rivers was the same way.
'It's really exciting to get them in here. I don't have any idea how far they'll take it but we'll throw them out there as we do. The guys that have been here in camp have had their chance to show us where they fit and to some degree, the other guys will get more turns than they will until things start to settle because we need to see the new guys and how they fit in. That's an approach we have and if they're ready and capable and hopefully we'll recognize it and throw them to the front and see what they can do to help us.
'We're just gonna keep doing what we do. We adjust. We don't want to be static. What I said at the outset is the most important. It's the way we practice. It's the mental approach that we bring to work every day. It'll be indicative of where we're going how hard we go this summer with Coach Carlisle. If the guys bust it, it's the first off-season for freshmen from last year, they've got to do their thing in the right manner and if they do, we'll be on our way as a team.
'There's a few guys coming in that we expect to see stand out in that manner. Jeff Byers is an extraordinarily committed young man. Keith Rivers is like that. Jeff Schweiger is like that. Josh Pinkard is like that. These are guys that love the game and seem to bring a real special attitude and there's others I'm hoping as well. I don't think they'll sit around waiting. They'll go for it. That's why they've been recruited here.
re: Jeff Byers starting at center: 'It's up to Jeff. We'll find out. We recruited him with the thought that he'll compete to play. He was such an extraordinary high school football player. He looked at the spot and knew there would be a new center from somewhere and he wants to go for that. Ryan (Kalil) has had a good spring. The reason we played him last year and didn't redshirt was to get him ready when we didn't know who the center was going to be. We thought it was important to get him in games and get him ready for this season. He's had a solid spring and done a nice job. But Byers will get a heckuva chance. He'll get thrown in. As well as the other guys. It's not who's who. Everyone gets a chance to play. We hope we get surprised and some guy can knock out a starter and take it. We're getting better if that happens. That's part of why we do it that way.
'Seems like the right way to compete. We throw them out in the water and see if they can swim. We have wonderful illustrations of how that's paid off. It works for us. It's an outlook of not restricting people in any way. A guy I love and respect greatly, Bud Grant, used to say for every rookie you start, you lose a game. I'm sure Bud's right about that, but that's how we've done it. Early on, it was necessary, depth chart-wise, but now it's a philosophy we like. It's optimistic for the young guys.
Re: Fred Davis: 'Freddie got off to a good start in that he was out there doing things and hurt his hamstrings and hasn't progressed since then. He's been held back. We're trying to get him some snaps. It hasn't been as productive as we would have liked. But he can do some special things. He's a big fast kid. He's caught the ball well. He's got a lot to learn. He played QB last year and did other things. He doesn't have a lot of experience as a full time receiver. But when he was full speed, he showed he could do some things. But we didn't get enough live snaps to see how far we could take. We'll go into fall camp like he's a first-year guy.'
Re: linebacker: 'The three guys coming in are all special athletes. Keith Rivers has great speed and size and playmaking ability. Ryan Powdrell is a really active, fast player at 250. He's bigger and at least as fast as any of our guys and Eugene Germany is a big son of a gun, at 260, playing strongside linebacker. Those three guys bring a uniqueness at their positions and hopefully we'll make them competitive and they'll have a chance to fight for time. And it helps the depth of special teams. Those positions are critical for the depth of special teams.
Re: Dallas Sartz: 'Dallas is another guy that when he started, he played better. I feel very comfortable moving him around. He's a unique kid with special qualities.
'We're faster. We've improved our team speed. No question about it. Particularly in our linemen positions. All of the guys I think will run at least as well as the guys coming in. That helps us in general. You can't be too fast.
USC FOOTBALL TWO-DEEP
(as of April 9, 2004)
John Zilka ORWil Smith
GREGG GUENTHER JR.*
(Dale Thompson) OR(Michael Stuart) OR(Jimmy Miller)
Players connected with 'OR' are considered equal
Fall 2004 enrollees listed alphabetically in (parentheses)
*Missed part of 2004 spring drills
Returning 2003 starters are listed in ALL CAPS